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Kansas defeats Texas A&M, 83-66

  • 2 p.m., March 8, 2012
  • Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO

Friday, March 9, 2012

Home cookin’: Family visit gives Elijah Johnson boost

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor (10) have a laugh after a layup by Johnson ended in the ball stuck up on the rim during the first half on Thursday, March 8, 2012.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor (10) have a laugh after a layup by Johnson ended in the ball stuck up on the rim during the first half on Thursday, March 8, 2012.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 83-66 victory over Texas A&M on March 8, 2012.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Elijah Johnson and Thomas Robinson

KU guard Elijah Johnson and forward Thomas Robinson talk to reporters after the Jayhawks' 83-66 victory over Texas A&M on March 8, 2012.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Texas A&M's Billy Kennedy, Keith Davis and Khris Middleton

Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy and players Keith Davis and Khris Middleton talk to reporters following their team's 83-66 loss to Kansas on March 8, 2012.

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KU vs. Texas A&M

Box score

— Kansas University junior combo guard Elijah Johnson headed home to Gary, Ind., with a heavy heart Sunday as he mourned the death of his beloved uncle, William D. “Dough Boy” Couisnard, Sr.

Johnson returned to campus Tuesday night with a smile on his face, feeling invigorated after spending quality time with his loved ones at Monday’s visitation and Tuesday morning’s funeral service.

“I think I just needed to get a little love from my family, honestly,” Johnson said after busting a three-game scoring drought by scoring a career-high 26 points in KU’s 83-66 Big 12 tournament quarterfinal victory over Texas A&M on Thursday in Sprint Center.

“When I went home for a little bit, it gave me something I needed to get going into March,” added Johnson, who hit eight of 11 shots, including a career-best five three-pointers in seven tries. “Being there for my family and hearing the stuff they say, it did something to me. It did something to my heart. It really did.”

Johnson had scored 22 points in KU’s last three games following a 21-point explosion against A&M on Feb. 22 in College Station.

“The whole time I was home,” Johnson said, “everybody was supposed to be sad, but everybody wanted to talk to me about ball. It made me realize where I’m at. It was another reality check. At Kansas, we get spoiled a lot. We play on TV every game. We play on center stage every game. There are thousands of people at our games, every game.

“Back home, people I haven’t seen in years are telling me, ‘Hey, I saw you on TV.’ That makes me feel good. It gives me that extra boost. It makes me want to do more. It makes me want to push a little harder.

“I’ve got this family here, too. They (KU players, coaches) are always saying encouraging things to me, but to go home and hear it from your real family, it can do a lot for you.”

KU coach Bill Self ran Johnson through an individual workout Sunday before allowing him to miss two full practices. Self had some encouraging words for Johnson on Thursday.

“When I was walking out of the locker room — I’m always the last out of the locker room — coach said to me, ‘I like the way you were shooting yesterday,’” Johnson related. “I said, ‘I didn’t know you were paying attention.’ He said (jokingly), ‘Yeah, I know everything.’

“Hearing that from your head coach ... if a player doesn’t feel special when recognized by his head coach, then there’s not many people who can get through to you.”

Self said he was truly impressed with the 6-foot-4 guard at practice Wednesday.

“Every time he teed it up, I thought it was going in,” Self said. “I told him before the game, ‘I’ve got a great feeling about you.’ I could tell he was confident.”

Johnson scored 13 points in an 18-4 run that opened a 30-21 lead with 4:22 left in the first half. He scored 15 points the initial half, just three shy of the 18 he had against A&M in the first half of the victory in College Station.

“I felt like T-Rob feels sometimes, like I can’t miss,” Johnson said. KU junior power forward Thomas Robinson scored 19 points off 6-of-9 shooting. He hit a pair of threes on a day the Jayhawks swished 10 of 15 from beyond the arc.

“I kind of felt like Superman (Robinson) today,” Johnson added. “I’ve been around him enough. It’s about time it rubbed off on me.”

Johnson’s backcourt partner, Tyshawn Taylor, hit three threes in four tries and scored 16 points.

“We were feeding off each other tonight,” Taylor said, “because he would make some shots then look at me, and I’d make some shots and vice versa. It opens up the floor for me, Thomas and Jeff (Withey, 11 points, six boards) when Elijah plays like that.”

Johnson, who also went 5-for-5 from the free-throw line, said it was gratifying that his teammates noticed he had the hot hand.

“Conner (Teahan, 0-for-2 from three) passed up a couple shots to give me the open look,” Johnson said. “After I made the first two, Tyshawn looked at me. I looked at him and said, ‘Yeah, it feels great.’ He shook his head. It was like, ‘Say no more.’ He knew I was feeling good.”

Johnson realizes there are no guarantees he’ll be just as productive in today’s 6:30 p.m. tourney semifinal against Baylor.

“I believe 100 percent that tomorrow is a different day,” Johnson said. “I don’t go into the game saying, ‘Hey, I had 26 yesterday,’ because I could have zero tomorrow. I just have to go in with the same drive, the same mind-set and be ready.”

He said he appreciates the fact Self demanded a lot of him Thursday and will again, today.

“Coach has a good way of turning your attention to back what it needs to be on,” Johnson said. “When Thomas went through what he went through (death of mom and two grandparents last season), coach said in an interview that he couldn’t let up on him. He had to keep yelling at him to make him feel normal. I don’t want people to make me not feel normal. If that’s yelling at me, it’s water off my back. It doesn’t bother me. I know coach is not trying to treat me special. He wants me to know, ‘Hey, snap back into it. Stuff happens. Deal with it.’”

Comments

deberg81 2 years, 6 months ago

I love ej's attitude. The team will be in good hands next year.

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jayhawker_97 2 years, 6 months ago

a good coach knows how to use their best players, a great one brings the best out of his players. how many times have we seen HCBS done just that to his players. EJ always has that touch, it's just a matter of time he'll knock those shots down each game. when he's confident like that, we don't need Teahan anymore! grin.. r o c k chalk!

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odc213 2 years, 6 months ago

and btw, musberger & knight, he is a starter. hohum on the commentary

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mattiesdad 2 years, 6 months ago

Did you hear musberger call Conner "Treyhan"? Time to retire.

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minnhawk84 2 years, 6 months ago

I think that was a compliment to Connor's 3 pt (trey) abilities.

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KULA 2 years, 6 months ago

I don't know which was worse--calling him "Treyhan" or calling him a "sharpshooter," lol.

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Kit Duncan 2 years, 6 months ago

The young man might have a career in broadcast journalism if he continues to interview as well as he did last night. I was quite impressed with the way EJ handled himself in front of the camera. Of course that will come after his long career in the NBA!

RCJH!

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Kit Duncan 2 years, 6 months ago

I did use caps on NBA and RCJH, but for some reason they dropped out!

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SDSurferFan 2 years, 6 months ago

Agree. So many interviews are canned. He had some emotion.

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jaybate 2 years, 6 months ago

NavyHawk,

Glad you noted Elijah's poise on camera. He is a gifted human being in more ways that basketball. He's going to be something all the way around.

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RockCaCO3 2 years, 6 months ago

Love the pic of EJ and TT above. They look loose, and ready to win!

RCJHGKU! (all caps, dammit)

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kerbyd 2 years, 6 months ago

Nic takes some great pics doesn't he?!!?? Also love the one with T-Rob and Self.

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nuleafjhawk 2 years, 6 months ago

EJ - you've ALWAYS got love from your KU family.

Well, not always. Actually we've given you quite a bunch of crap at times this season.

Never mind.

But - if you play like that all more often, you will feel the love all the time.

Hey - we're not God, we love conditionally.

(all in fun)

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Ben Kane 2 years, 6 months ago

i've been saying for a long time that i just love EJ's smooth stroke... I love it when i look smart. keep making me look smart EJ, or I might end up reenacting scenes from platoon with charlie sheen.

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KANSTUCKY 2 years, 6 months ago

...in a roadside ditch with a dog collar.

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jhox 2 years, 6 months ago

I wonder how much fresh legs (from missing a couple of practices) may have helped his shooting yesterday? There are certain games where I swear you can tell Self has put the guys through a particularly tough week of practice, or where he turned a pregame walk through into an all out run fest. Some games the guys just have dead legs. I'd lay odds the Davidson game was one of those days. We've had a couple of conference games like that as well. Games where the guys' feet looked glued to the floor, and normally easy dunks suddenly turn into lay ups or missed dunks.

I love Coach Self, but there's something to be said for having fresh legs, especially at tournament time, and especially when you have a thin bench.

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KU79 2 years, 6 months ago

EJ will be fine next year. As I've made the profound (lol) statement many times, Self's players get better. It's as simple as that. And I apologize in advance if this comes out in duplicate or triplicate...

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KU79 2 years, 6 months ago

EJ will be fine next year. As I've made the profound (lol) statement many times, Self's players get better. It's as simple as that. And I apologize in advance if this comes out in duplicate or triplicate...

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KU79 2 years, 6 months ago

EJ will be fine next year. As I've made the profound (lol) statement many times, Self's players get better. It's as simple as that. And I apologize in advance if this comes out in duplicate or triplicate...

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REHawk 2 years, 6 months ago

This is becoming one cagey squad, adept at avoiding traps, sharing the load in such a way that it has gained a touch for who has the hot hand, then responding as a unit to feed that hand, flourish the flow. Yesterday EJ was hot, so Conner and Tyshawn deferred to that strength. Today it might be Withey or T-Rob. I would have bet fifty dollars that the team would have suffered at least one loss in the 6 day three game stretch surrounding the last contest with Mizzou. With Harris and Middleton back in the lineup, Kennedy's Aggies appeared to be back on a roll, set to fulfill the destiny which their pre-season projected. Our Jayhawks snapped the trap well before halftime, took to heart Bill Self's lashings at the break, then returned to the court to cruise to victory, with one more opportunity to face Scott Drew's talented Bears. This Jayhawk squad presents myriad prepatory problems for the hardiest of defenders. There are so many directions from which Kansas can score, given specific matchups and eruptions of varied hot hands. And through most of the entire 40 minutes, customary Bill Self defense seems always to keep us in the game. I would imagine that Baylor will mix in some zone defense for lengthy stretches tonight. Coach will probably tweak his pre-game comments, perhaps get in the ear of another starter to help generate another cozy bubble of confidence to sustain what has become an effervescent fountain of excitement for the Jayhawk Nation. To date, what a fun unexpected string of league victories!

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lincase 2 years, 6 months ago

I love Nic's photography. Go to the gallery of photos and view the entire photo of Elijah and Tyshawn: at first glance it looks like they are two torsos wearing the same pair of shorts--at least to my aging eyes.

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Rock Chalk 2 years, 6 months ago

This love that Elijah feels from his family ... this is what T-Rob doesn't get now. Has to be a big hole in his heart. Glad we're here to fill it for him.

So fun watching Elijah last night! Very proud of him and really excited to see him let loose the rest of this year and next year.

It is March!! It's a leap year, and we win championships in leap years!

The fun continues. Thankfully. Love this time of year.

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RockChalk26 2 years, 6 months ago

Love, love, love EJ's positive attitude he brings to the team. I am feeling more and more comfortable with EJ stepping in next year in the absence of TT.

Side note: The speed EJ displayed when he got the board and beat everyone down the floor to hit the runner in the lane, might be a step quicker then TT. Am I crazy to think that?

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Ryan Michael 2 years, 6 months ago

I don't think your crazy... EJ is a superior athlete if you ask me. His speed and bounce getting off the court are amazing. The difference is that TT will turn it up to 100% and go as fast as he possibly can. Upside is the speed, downside is he's out of control a lot.

EJ on the other hand runs about 85% and focuses on control. In my opinion this is just how he was raised in the system. Self would yank him on a single turnover in prior years, and now EJ tends to play it safe. Next year if EJ can balance control with spurts of turning it up, I think he could be by far the best PG in the country.

What isn't amazing about being able to throw insane alley oops to your point guard?

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jhox 2 years, 6 months ago

Hard to imagine anyone quicker than TT but it's fair to say he has similar quickness. He is just not as comfortable with his left hand, and most penetration comes off the left hand dribble, meaning he doesn't get into the lane nearly as well as TT. I've seen EJ go after loose balls a few times this year where he was twice as far away from it as other guys, yet he'll come up with it. Just makes me scratch my head and wonder where that came from since he hides it most of the time. On the rare occasion where he makes an explosive move, it can really be impressive, no doubt about that.

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Alohahawk 2 years, 6 months ago

AND!!! In the same article, it lists TT as third team All American. I don't disagree. Achieving All American status has to be a "total season played" award. If TT would have played all season as he has since the conference started, I'd move him to at least second team and possibly first team.

That's why, IMHO, TRob deserves National POY, because he played at that top level the entire season. And Davis hasn't.

The final analysis will be where KU's season ends in the NCAA tournament. As champs, or a level or two from the top.

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Brak 2 years, 6 months ago

Just because EJ is from Vegas doesn't mean his whole family lives there.

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sloppyscience 2 years, 6 months ago

I know. But it referenced him 'going home'. Was just looking for insight, thought maybe I was incorrect.

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2 years, 6 months ago

He moved to Vegas before high school, but spent younger years in Indiana. Lots of family is still there.

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Tony Bandle 2 years, 6 months ago

I say...rent a big camper/van and let Elijah's family travel with the Hawks for the NCAA.

By the way, Tyshawn's Mom may be the most vigorous fan in the stands. That lady can really yell!!!

PS. Next year, with The Prophet and BenMac as our backcourt, we may have the best shootng guard combo in America!!!

Actually, if they're both on, we may have the best shooting guard combo in college right now!!!!!!!

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sleepy33 2 years, 6 months ago

I was thinking the same thing about making sure EJ's family has tickets to all the tourney games. :)

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Orangedog87 2 years, 6 months ago

Loved watching EJ yesterday ...I hope we see a lot more of it.....playing like that he might be a starter soon.......Knight and Burger wish we could get other announcers for a change

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Mike Kendall 2 years, 6 months ago

EJ looked great yesterday. With EJ and TT, we got to have one of the quickest back courts in America. BTW, the reason why EJ got a lot of love from his family is because of June's Senior speech. June said you need to love your family more. EJ got the love back and it really helped his game. Continued good success, Elijah. Good luck with da Bears! Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

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bbeckum 2 years, 6 months ago

Prior to this year, Coach Knight was one of my favorite color announcers. His games were like a basketball clinic. I learned something every time. Unfortunately, and I don't know if it's age or lack of preparation, but he does seem less sharp this season. It makes me sad for him.

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Orangedog87 2 years, 6 months ago

Agree last year I found him interesting.......this year he is annoying, rambling, mumbling and incorrect... It is sad for him....

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Redlandsjhawk 2 years, 6 months ago

Dear Coach Self,

Please send everyone home for a visit with their families before the NCAA tournament starts.

Regards, Jayhawk Nation

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GeoHawk15 2 years, 6 months ago

I've always rooted for EJ and I'm so proud that he played loose and lit it up yesterday. The next step for him is to do it more consistantly. Sounds like the right mentality is there, so get after it EJ!

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KGphoto 2 years, 6 months ago

“Back home, people I haven’t seen in years are telling me, ‘Hey, I saw you on TV.’ That makes me feel good. It gives me that extra boost. It makes me want to do more. It makes me want to push a little harder."

Perfectly illustrated with a powerful rebound, 5 dribbles in a white streak up the court, straight up with the air-brakes and everything goes silent... whoosh. 5 seconds from the moment he touches the rebound, 3 feet off the ground, to the moment the shot rips the net on the other end. He knew where he was going before he hit the ground running. I've watched that play at least ten times now and it's beautiful.

I've heard people say they were inspired by this or that, and I'm sure players DO get inspired by various things. I'm not sure however, I've ever seen it carved so sharply into a player's performance as it was into The Prophet's yesterday afternoon.

Those same folks will be watching you again tonight EJ.

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jaybate 2 years, 6 months ago

I've always said Tyshawn was the fastest on the dribble I have seen, but EJ issued a distinct challenge to Quantum T. This is the new fast! Beat this!

I'm not even sure EJ realizes how fast he is. He came out of high school with a hops reputation. He was the guy who could sky. Then he suddenly grew two more inches (at least), and he's been growing into that crazy body for the last two years. This guy has a catapult gear that Navy carrier jets would be happy to hook on to.

Has any team in NCAA history had this much speed and quickness at all three perimeter positions?

I don't think so.

UK's seems to be longer.

And that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is from another athletic dimension that even Travis is going to still have trouble guarding, but adding up all three positions, this is "The Fast Bunch."

As a freshman I nicknamed TT as Quantum T.

And with EJ and Travis around him, it is like we are at basketball Cerne watching quantum entanglement.

The longer these guys play as a unit, the more spooky interaction occurs.

I want to see what these guys can do against UK now that they are maturing as starters.

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Jayhawk838 2 years, 6 months ago

Has anybody else noticed the rims at the Sprint Center? What is wrong with those? There seems to be something weird how the shots come off.

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jaybate 2 years, 6 months ago

~EJ's trifectation rate today reads: .327.

He has been cold for so long, he could go 6 for 6 from trey today!

Go, EJ, go!!!!!

~TT is a 44% from trey.

~TRob is a flipping 46% from trey. Superman has decided to make himself indispensable in the NBA!!!! Imagine a guy that can board like him and pot the triceratop in the L! How about a 6'9" 245 pound 3?!!!!!!!

~A note to the next team that tries to rough up Thomas Robinson.

"Don't tug on Superman's cape. Don't spit into the wind. Don't pull the mask off the ol' lone ranger. No you don't mess around with him." --credit Jim Croce with a slight twist (Note: I still love Jim's music. It goes in the timeless stack.)

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Alohahawk 2 years, 6 months ago

The music industry has lost a lot of great writers to air fatalities (and drugs). Just imagine the great music we've all missed out on due to such early departures.

Jim Croce put a lot of sentimental and down home, yet in your face, observations into his creations.

"Bowery's got it's bums", but Rock Heaven's got Jim Croce.

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KGphoto 2 years, 6 months ago

I used that with James Sims at some point last year (probably pre-season) no twist necessary. Too bad we don't have a Leroy on a KU roster, or a two-syllable-first-named Brown somewhere. I just can't seem to get two syllables out of Greg, and Bad, Bad Greggy Brown doesn't sound very intimidating.

Love Jim's music too, and would add that it goes in a timeless bottle instead of a stack, eh?

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Micky Baker 2 years, 6 months ago

Elijah, Family is everything. Hold on to the family. That is the strongest support group a person can have, in my opinion.

But, great game against Texas A&M, and keep it up!

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Choctaw 2 years, 6 months ago

We have the National Player of the Year on one side with T Rob, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the year in the paint with Withy, a lockdown defender in Releford on the other side, one guard playing like one of the best in the country right now with Taylor and if EJ starts hitting 3's consistently we are going to be one hard out in the tournament. God I love rebuilding years!

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Kye Clark 2 years, 6 months ago

Bye bye Bruce Webber. Seems as though Shaka Smart is in line to at least get a look there. That's a pretty decent job if the right person can fill it. I had said not too long ago that they should look at Billy Gillispie, and Jaybate and I had some speculation as to whether they might roll the dice on Tim Jankovich (although it's my belief he hasn't done enough at Illinois St. to warrant the jump yet). Let the coaching carousel begin.

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KGphoto 2 years, 6 months ago

Jank might get the call when Shaka Stupid fails though.

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KULA 2 years, 6 months ago

Great game by the Hawks! I hope Bill took something away from this game also. Specifically, how much influence he as the coach can have, both positive and negative, on a player's confidence and state of mind. Still would've liked to see a few more minutes for Naadir working in the regular flow of the game.

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Alohahawk 2 years, 6 months ago

Just read the article, which I found very revealing, and came away with a few thoughts.

The article admits that the better players leave for the NBA after only one season. Thus the quality of play may not be as good as it could be. Debatable, in that there are still a lot of talented college players who stay longer than one year. And you couldn't sell that argument to avid fans. Wishy-washy argument at best, on the part of the writer.

As the article states, attendance is down, almost across the board. But it doesn't mention that unemployment is up, pretty much across the board. So people may have the time, but they won't have the money it takes to attend games. For my part, that is a key omission by the writer.

It doesn't mention that the price of admission (both seasonal and for tournaments) is up across the board (I assume), compared to previous years. And again, people can't afford to pay for tickets due to unemployment and the inflated ticket prices. Another omission.

A good argument is presented in the article that fans have more options to watch games - on the internet and TV. So why pay for tickets, travel expenses, Etc., when it's free through other options. Very good key point by the writer.

However, there's another unmentioned possibilty. And this relates to just the NCAA tournament. The Big Dance is now watered down, having expanded from 32 teams to 64, and presently stands at 68 (with talk of jumping it to 128 teams). It's no wonder the tournament arenas are only partially filled. The Final Four will be sold out, but regional games aren't as compeling. (I know, that's highly debatable depending on which teams are playing.) While upsets are possible, many fans are aware their team stands little chance of beating a higher ranked team, and won't spend what it takes to travel the distances involved, or take time off from their jobs (especially for an entire family, including kids). And unless the team has a huge following, such as KU and N. Carolina have, they aren't going to have the numbers to fill the huge arenas used during the tournament.

IMHO, the NCAA tournament has expanded itself too far. Keep the arenas smaller, until the final four. Lesser capacity arenas will create a better environment for all involved - players and fans - because it won't seem like a game is being played in a football stadium vacuum. The noise level will be louder, and the fans will have a better view of what is happening on the court. Who wants to sit in an arena where you need binoculars to recognize the players on a team? ie. I sat on the ground level of the Houston Astrodome during the KU vs UCLA semi-final game in 1972 (or was it 1971), and I couldn't see a thing.

Just my three cents. :>}

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Alohahawk 2 years, 6 months ago

Coach Self has always been a humble man. He has always given credit to those who deserve it. But he revealed something in his comment to EJ, when he said, "Yeah, I know everything."

That isn't bragging. It's just letting a player know who's the boss, and that he's the one the player needs to listen to. Not an inner voice, or anyone else's opinion or advice. His words to EJ must have given him confidence.

If a player doubts himself, he may not play to his capabilities. That's when he needs guidance and the best one to do that is his coach. It sure seems to have worked against TAM.

On occasion, I still watch that pregame locker room speech Self gave to the 2008 team. It was very inspirational. And we all know the final results.

Keep it up, Coach Self. You may not say it about yourself, but your the best.

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Kye Clark 2 years, 6 months ago

Doc Sadler out at Nebraska. Big Ten cleaning house! No word on who they might be looking at, and that gig is not nearly as attractive as the Illinois job.

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Mike Kendall 2 years, 6 months ago

Big 10 ain't messing around. When Illinois lost last night, I said, "Bye, bye Bruce."

When Nebraska lost last night, I said, "Doc might be in some hot water."

The next to go? Travis Ford-----Oklahoma State.

Just sayin'.

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Kye Clark 2 years, 6 months ago

Yeah neither firing is surprising. Not sure who they think they can attract up there to Nebraska, but it was time for a change. They were so boring to watch, even by Big Ten standards!

I haven't heard anything about Ford being on the hot seat, although he's definitely the one with the least amount of job security in the Big XII. I really want that program to succeed, because I don't want T. Boone Pickens to be throwing money at Self every 5 years trying to lure him away (which I don't think he'd leave now for them, but it still makes me nervous).

Earlier in the year I'd heard rumblings about Bill Carmody of Northwestern (surprise! Another Big Ten team!) possibly getting the boot this year, regardless of whether or not he could guide them to their first ever NCAA tournament berth. And with the loss to a pretty bad Iowa team in their conference tournament, chances are looking slim for them to get that bid. And while I don't think it is going to happen, if UCLA decided to oust Howland after the season it wouldn't surprise me.

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Mike Kendall 2 years, 6 months ago

Wouldn't surprise me about Howland either. 316, thanks for your really good analysis. rcjh.

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jaybate 2 years, 6 months ago

Rex Walters for UCLA. Rex is Japanese American, which would be a plus in LA. Turned USF around and upset Zaga. Californian.

I don't see a KU or Okie Baller getting the NU job, because of the bad blood between KU and NU, and the failure of Doc to win with Okie Ball. Wichita State coach would be a good hire.

Illinois might take a Self recommendation. Who would he recommend? Norm Roberts. Roberts could do great job at Illinois. Janks, but it might be impolitic to raid Janks in state. Danny Manning. Please don't take him from us, Danny could really be a steal for Illinois. Danny could make the move now from a family perspective. He would then be groomed to take over KU when/if Self moves on. But it's a huge step to HC. Does he want the hassle?

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